From Henry Fletcher Hance 10 May 1863
British Vice Consulate, | Whampoa,
10. May, 1863.
Knowing that you are engaged in researches on the influence of domestication on the external form and characteristics of animals, I take the liberty of inclosing a stuffed specimen of an albino sparrow from Japan, which I begged the other day from an acquaintance, in whose possession it had died.1 I cannot say whether, the skeleton being absent, it is of the slightest use or interest to you, but I send it on the chance that it may prove so. I have seen several very curiously marked & colored Japanese sparrows, but they are very rare here, in the south of China, & I cannot procure any for transmission to you, nor do I think they would get home alive, unless very great care were taken of them, for they seem delicate in constitution, from what I can learn. Mr. Swinhoe2 told me that the So. China sparrow is Passer montanus. I am no zoologist myself, & do not pretend to know whether the specimen sent & the others I have referred to are sports of that species or not, but the Japanese are such adepts at raising vegetable monsters that they are not unlikely to have outrun us in propagating & perpetuating animal races too.
It is not likely that you have heard my name, though I have for many years past worked steadily at the Flora of China; but a quiet student, who writes little, & is located in so distant & isolated a place can of course expect no other lot.3
I take advantage of this opportunity to say that an old friend of mine, Edw. Bradford, a Linnaean, formerly Princ: Med: Officer in the Hongkong Garrison, & now head of the medical staff at Sandhurst, who was stationed for some time at Dominica & Trinidad,4 where he worked hard at Orchids, con amore, & with great skill too, & from whom I was so fortunate as to receive a number of specimens, wrote to me very lately, ‘a propos of your suggestion (: Fertil. of Orch. p. 236:) that Catasetum tridentatum was ♂,5 to say that he felt sure he had collected perfect fruit from it in Trinidad! This was about 17 years ago, but his memory was not treacherous, for I found on referring to my herbarium (which I did at his request) a fine full capsule, of which I have sent him a sketch—6 Thus, your supposition is unfounded.7 I have mentioned this, because I feel sure it is a fact which will greatly interest you; but, while doing so, I desire to explain in the most explicit manner that the discovery & all the credit pertaining thereto are Mr. Bradford’s, not mine.
I am, | Dear Sir, | Faithfully Yours, | H. F. Hance.
My address is:
Dr. H. F. Hance,
H. B. M. Vice Consul,
Whampoa, | China.
or/to the care of
Mr. Franz Thimm,8
3 Brook Street,
Sends sketch of Catasetum tridentatum fruit at request of Edward Bradford.
CD incorrectly asserted that Catasetum is male [Orchids, pp. 236–8].
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4152,” accessed on 29 April 2016, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-4152